Unlikely Potential Problems

Photo of the 1988 source code of PAP (Pension Analysis Program).
Once—in 1988 to be exact—I, proudly, showed my dad the source code of a program—PAP, Pension Analysys Program, to be exact—that I co-wrote with an actuary. Not being a computer literate at all, my father looked at it with little interest, read part of it nonetheless and than said the most amazing thing to me: “Why are there so many errors?” I was baffled, many errors in my code? Looking at this one line—the one showed above to be exact—it hit me. The code was larded with ifthen Error(). I explained to my father that I tried to catch everything that could go wrong at the earliest possible moment and, with appropriate modesty, that it was a sign of quality code. I tried to explain, ignoring my fathers tell tale signs of boredom, that the Error() function would hardly ever be executed in the end product. I told him all about error distributions not being normal and their heavy tails not being exponentially bounded. I thought I lost him there because my father was not a math buff, but a financial-adviser. When I had finally shut up, he proclaimed: “So all you are saying is that you do not ignore unlikely potential problems. Good for you.”